Switzerland profited from high immigration levels before the economic downturn in 2008 but saw a drop in migrant numbers as the crisis began to bite.
The figures, cited in a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented on Monday, follow an overall trend in rich countries during the same period, as labour demand fell.
In the five years before the economic crisis, migration helped plug gaps in the Swiss labour market, said the OECD. Around half of new additions to the workforce in Switzerland were foreigners during this time, compared with an OECD average of around 30 per cent. Only Ireland and Spain showed a similarly high percentage.
Most people came to Switzerland from the European Union or European Free Trade Association countries, benefiting from freedom of movement accords, which allow nationals of the member states to live and work freely in each other’s countries.
Preliminary data for 2009, however, show “a rather significant decline” in immigration, said the OECD. Long-term immigration from EU/Efta lands dropped by 23 per cent between January and September 2009, compared with the same period in 2008.
“Overall, net immigration during this period has been at its lowest level since the introduction of free movement in 2002,” observed the OECD.
Switzerland is a member of Efta but not the EU, although the country has numerous bilateral agreements with the European bloc.
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